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Oldsmar council woman: 'I may have been crass … but I am not a racist'

OLDSMAR — After the invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance, Mayor Jim Ronecker gave City Council member Janice Miller the floor.

"Those of you that know me know that I shoot from the hip and I don't always say the politically correct thing," she said Tuesday night.

It had been exactly two weeks since the July 6 council meeting where Miller assumed — based solely on stereotypes and skin color — that the people who repaired the roof at City Hall in 2006 were illegal immigrants.

Turns out, the foreman on the project was born in the United States.

"Yep, I may have been crass in my remarks, but I am not a racist," she said. "Did I put my foot in my mouth the way I led into my remarks? You betcha."

She said "hindsight is 20/20," that if she "had it to do over again, I would not have done it that way."

And then Miller spoke directly to Oldsmar, which was thrust into the middle of a national immigration debate as a result of her remarks.

"I apologize for offending some people," she said, "and I'm sorry that the council and the residents of Oldsmar have had to endure this for the last two weeks."

Ronecker told Miller "thank you," then segued into the regular agenda. After 14 days, everyone was ready to put the episode behind them.

"It's time now for the city of Oldsmar to get back to building a positive future," said council member Linda Norris, the only official who addressed Miller's remarks during the meeting.

"It's been a heartbreaking two weeks. It's hard to have your town be portrayed as some kind of racist town. We know better. The citizens of Oldsmar know better. We don't stand for it."

Norris said she expected a circus Tuesday night after all of the newspaper articles, blogs, e-mails and even a resignation. Former City Council candidate Sara Normandeau was so upset over Miller's comments she announced last week that she was stepping down from her volunteer planning board post.

In the end, there was no circus, just rows of empty seats.

"I'm happy that a lot of citizens didn't come," Norris said.

When the mayor asked whether anyone from the public wanted to address the council, four people rose from their seats. Only one mentioned the immigration flap.

Jerry Walters said he was "deeply upset" with outsourcing in Oldsmar, a reference to the Nielsen Co., which has replaced some local workers with ones from India.

He said he may not always agree with the issues that Miller brings forward, but he supports her and feels that "she has been worked over" in the media.

"The press has, as usual, repeated and repeated and even editorialized Ms. Miller," he said. "This has always been a norm when reporting on Oldsmar, unfortunately."

Rodney Thrash can be reached at rthrash@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4167.

Oldsmar council woman: 'I may have been crass … but I am not a racist' 07/21/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 8:34pm]
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